1. Wang Dan is the most prominent new exile to the U.S. He was one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989 in China. By conducting a textual analysis of his address to Taipei Times I will show how Wang Dan used propaganda to portray the Chinese people are innocent victims and frame what the Chinese government should have done particularly with regard to the mass media to remedy government!'s slowness and inappropriateness of response to an outbreak of SARS in order to maintain the stability of the society and the development of the economy. In order to support my thesis, I will use examples and ideas from five periodical articles and three additional publications and theories like Harold Innis!'s concept of center vs. periphery and Marshall McLuhan!'s concept of the medium is the message in my essay by elaborating detail in terms of the following three aspects: 1. The public panic and the function of mass media. 2.
How do the mainstream media and government deal with the crisis caused by an outbreak of SARS? 3. The impact of the economy by SARS This review of an outbreak of SARS focuses on these three main areas. The public panic and the function of mass media 1. Wang Dan presents Chinese people as innocent Wang Dan presents Chinese people are innocent in an outbreak of SARS. He said the Chinese authorities tried to cover it up, but paper cannot cover up fire.
The consequence was panic among the people. Obviously, he tried to show that people who were infected by SARS were innocent due to irresponsibility of the Chinese government. As we know he was one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989 in China and he has sufficient knowledge in history and politic of China, but he have been isolated from China since 1997. That brings me to think how much he knows about the nowadays of China. Does he qualify to criticize China about SARS? Does his message reliable?
From Marshall McLuhan!'s conception of the medium is the message, Wang Dan himself can be looked as a medium. He himself as a medium automatically sends me a message before reading his address to Taipei Times. The positive or negative of the message depends on who receive the message. The message I received from him is that he probably will not say any good side about China, so the message what he said most likely will be biased which can not be fully trusted. This is because I do not appreciate what he did in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989 in China. What he and his other classmates did is totally in threaten of the social stability of China at that time.
In the article! ^0 People Against the Mentally : Community Opposition to residential Treatment Facilities! +/-, author Fanny, M shows that Chinese government tried to cover the truth of mentally illness people up in order to put them in a local living area, but people who live around those mental illness people find out the truth later and caused the society unstable.! ^0 the typical AIDS story tended less to sensationalize than to reassure, largely because journalists depended upon government officials... Such sources had interests either in avoiding coverage or in pointing toward breakthrough; ! +/- (David C. Colby, Timothy E. Cook, 1991, p. 215).
Later this epidemic seemed likely to affect general population. Above two examples exactly shows what Wand Dan said paper cannot cover up fire. In my view, as a big country like China sometimes do need authority to cover outbreak like SARS up before knowing the source of SARS and knowing how to treat this disease in order to make the society stable. I think this is not irresponsible to the people. Especially, a country like China who has 12 billion people, any inappropriate issue will cause great impact in the whole society. From Lasswell!'s conception of the propaganda, even country like United States, it also use propaganda to make up a story of a hero woman soldier to cover the truth of that soldier in order to encourage American soldier to win the war in Iraq and the effect of that among American soldiers is great during that war.
2. How does message become rumor? Wan Dan says that no control to the new technology of transmitting message is the reason that caused the rumor of SARS among people. The new technology of transmitting message can be the internet and the cellular phone which are hard to be controlled.
Non-professional opinions are important factors that caused rumor. From Harold Innis!'s conception of center vs. periphery, Wan Dan can be looked as a center that he sends the message to people. People who receive message from him can be looked as periphery.! ^0 In societies in which modern means of communication predominate, rumor always moves faster than fact. Often, when a fact arrives it is interpreted in the light of a rumor which manages to become more real than the fact.! +/- (Herbert Daniel, 1991, p. 542).
Although author Herbert Danniel talks about AIDS which is different from SARS, he has the similar idea why the message become rumor as Wan Dan has. The wide range of using the cellular phone and the internet can also be considered as a result of propaganda of the new technology. From Lasswell!'s conception of the propaganda, we can see that why so many people in China use the cellular phone and the internet is because of the propaganda of the new technology. The reason that the rumor of SARS generated such a wide impact among mass in china can be explained in the following two ways: first, because the information related to SARS concerns the health and even life safety of the common people; Wan Dan said the Chinese authorities tried to cover up the cases of SARS, but paper can not cover up fire.
^0 Irresponsible press and media coverage highlighted the spread of AIDS! -! +/- (Herbert Danniel, 1991, p. 539). Obviously, we can see that the occurrences of the rumor are mostly caused by the government or the mass media. From Innis!'s conception of center vs. periphery, we can understand that people who spread message of SARS can be looked as center and who receive the message is periphery. In here, The Chinese government is center and the mass media is the periphery.
I realize that the power of center is so important, anything inappropriate messaged sent by center can cause great impact on its periphery. SARS is the great example of this. Second, the common people are lacking knowledge of medical treatment and medication for SARS. The uncertainties related to SARS are high. As a result, hearsay becomes wide and the great of impact is hard to avoid. Wan Dan said if the news about SARS can be reported in an official way, then the impact of it on the society can be greatly reduced.
This is true, I agree with this point. The government should be responsible to issue news of SAR in its early stage in order to stop the rumors of SARS and can maintain the stability of the society.! ^0 Suggestions for resolving the paradox included in the planning, application of the knowledge and skills of social Psychology in dealing with public panic, and cooperation with the mass media to reach the public.! +/- (Fanny M. Cheung, 1990, p. 205).
With SARS, Wan Dan think there are additional factors that affect the transmission of hearsay. First is the way of information dissemination. According to an investigation reported in one local newspaper in Beijing, it was discovered that the common people acquire information about SAS is from cellular phones and the internet. New ways of transmission easily break through the localized community conversation. The second factor is culture.!
^0! -, individuals tend to share information with others and with people whom they perceive to have good relations! +/- (Lai & Wong, 2002, p. 58) Medical experts report that Chinese people are more likely to consult with non-professionals. They would rather to listen to opinions from their relative or friends. In contrast, western people would rather to listen to the opinions of medical professionals.
This hobby of Chinese is not good for the whole society. The different people transmitting hearsay have different motivations. Some of them try to help others, let others know what really happened, however some of them want to benefit from this event. These people intentionally magnify the epidemic situation.
This kind of motivation goes against the social morality. It harms the benefit of the public. From Lasswell!'s conception of propaganda, different people use propaganda to relay the information of the SARS to the public for different purposes.! ^0 Disasters for some are opportunities for others.! +/- (Virginia Burridge & Philip Strong, 1991, p. 129). This statement clearly shows that some people will use disaster as a tool to make their own benefit from the public.
From the above we can see that the supply of professional information related to SARS would cut down on the spread of hearsay. Thus facing the hearsay as early as possible is very important to prevent rumor from flooding. There is a need to increase the average trust of the mass media. The information relayed by the mass media should be by professionals.
Government officers also are important roles, if they have ability and experiences know how to deal with the relationship among the public, then the spread of the hearsay can be limited in a certain range. 3. Why do the rumors about SARS pass so quickly? Wan Dan says that it is now impossible to completely control the dissemination of information.
From Harold Innis!'s conception of center vs. periphery, the government can be looked as center while the mainstream media are an intermediate and people who receive the message from the mass media is periphery, the government use its power to control the dissemination of message to media which are around it. Especially, nowadays the technology is so advanced, people can easily relay information by using internet or the cellular phones. Therefore, it is not possible to control the dissemination of the information.! ^0! -, many people heard about the rumor even before news announcements on television and radio. Apparently, they had obtained the news through personal channels.! +/- (Gina Lai, Q dalia Wong, 2002, p. 54).
In deep, common people have the right to know the true story of the event even when the event threatens people!'s safety. Because the Chinese government did not want the public to know about SARS in the beginning, there was no any related news about SARS being issued by media. However it is impossible to prevent people from communicating with each other in this information era. If the mass media was not allowed to function properly and in a timely manner by the Chinese government, this certainly will lead to a lost of control of public opinion. In terms of the mass communication, a government should serve as a source of information for its people, fulfilling their rights of know the facts related to their lives or safety by offering them a timely and actual flow of information. People!'s rights to information should be the only principle for the government to follow, regardless of whether the information is about an infectious disease or not.
In an outbreak of SARS, the mass media also did not fulfill their responsibility. In the beginning, the mass media did not relay the information related to this infectious disease to public, therefore rumors about SARS pass very quickly and caused mass panic.! ^0 Governmental inability to solve these problems, or even to address them in a timely fashion, is likely to generate dissatisfaction or distrust.! +/- (Patricia & Dietram, 2000, p. 744). From Harold Innis!'s conception of monopoly of knowledge, we can understand the reason why mass media did not relay the information of SARS to the public mainly is because the Chinese government controls the information of the sensitive issues and never allows these issues to be covered in order to maintain social stability. How to deal with the crisis caused by an outbreak of infectious disease 1.
In the information era the government needs to be much more efficient in making information public in the event of emergency. When important event concerning the lives of people happen, the public needs to know the facts as a matter of respect and human rights.! ^0 The states did not introduce full individual human rights, including the right to communicate with others.! +/- (Miroljub Radojkovic, 1994, p. 137) Wan Dan says in the information era, it is impossible to block information, because the speed of transmission as well as the broad of scope creates a huge of impact. From Harold Innis!'s conception of time bias and space bias, we understand that the internet and the cellular phones can be looked as space bias, because they are transportable and can be used to transfer information very quickly. The government should have good relationship with the mass media.
When people urgently want to know the exact information about an infectious disease, if the mass media keeps quiet, the only thing that will happen is the rumor about the disease will get bigger and bigger. If some related departments of government relayed information about this event through the mass media they could have a good image in the public. 2. Increasing trust in the government Wan Dan addressed that the message should be transparent to the public in order to increase trust in the government among people.! ^0! -, it is very clear that an underlying motivation was to protect economic interests of San Francisco and the State of California by denying the existence of the plague and deriding those who claimed it existed.! +/- (J. Gerard Power, 1995, p. 89).!
^0 the distrust potentially stems from discrepancies between the output produced by the government and citizens expectation.! +/- (Patricia Moy, Dietram A., 2000, p. 744) Again, from Innis!'s conception of center vs. periphery, San Francisco and the State of California are the center and the mass media is intermediate that used the information sent by the local government to its periphery which is local people. I think the negative effect of the action of San Francisco and the State of California is great. Since the message of plague is not transparent to the local people, once plague is out of control will decrease trust in the government among the local people. 3.
There is no shirking the responsibility for mainstream media The government should try to establish a sustained and stable relationship with the mass media so that the media can be the government!'s capable assistant when facing a sudden crisis, issuing true and reliable information to ensure the stability of the society. From Harold Innis!'s concept of center vs. periphery, the Chinese government is the center and the mass media is intermediate and the Chinese people are the periphery. Since the effect of the center always can cause great impact on its periphery, the Chinese government can use the mass media to replay information to the public after creating good relationship with the mass media. In order to allow the mainstream media to sufficiently exert the above function, the government should start with the following steps: First, should regard the superiority for mainstream in public opinion; second, should persist in guide of correct public opinion; lastly, the government should set up an efficient system of emergency. The impact of the economy by SARS Wan Dan says the Chinese authorities expect foreign investors to have faith in China!'s economic development.
On the other hand, they tell lies and conceal message. From Harold Innis!'s concept of center vs. periphery, the Chinese government is the center and the Chinese people are the periphery. The effect of the center on its periphery always has great impact either positive or negative. So when the Chinese government tell lies and conceal message of an outbreak of SARS, this will cause great negative effect such as distrust in the government among people. That can easily bring the economy down because no one wants to do business with a person who can not be trusted. A. Credibility 1.! ^0 In China, how can a market economy develop successfully if credibility is destroyed by the government?! +/- B. Political reform 1.
China!'s slowness and inappropriateness of response are unlikely to be remedied without political reform By conducting a textual analysis of his address to Taipei Times we can see how Wang Dan used propaganda to portray the Chinese people are innocent victims and frame what the Chinese government should have done particularly with regard to the mass media to remedy government!'s slowness and inappropriateness of response to an outbreak of SARS in order to maintain the stability of the society and the development of the economy.! ^0 The reform of china!'s economic system after 1978 was no doubt one of the most significant events in the 20th century! +/- (Harding, 1987, p. 467) China is in a more exoteric environment now, especially after joined the WTO, the economy of china has become part of the world economy and the contact with international countries has become more frequently. A crisis such as SARS was reviewed only as Chinese before, but now it will probably have a ripple effect in the world. I believe after this outbreak, both the chinese government and the mass media will change the way they look at and judge crisis such as SARS and as a result they will set up a healthy ordered system of information.